'Voice of Sokurov' ('Sokurovin Aani'): Helsinki Review

Courtesy of Helsinki International Film Festival
Intimate but dry encounter is for cinephiles who are already serious fans

The "Russian Ark" director recalls enduring through changing times

Russian auteur Alexander Sokurov tells his own tale in Voice of Sokurov, a portrait in which one suspects director Leena Kilpelainen would happily have sat at his knee for months if he'd let her. Relying almost exclusively on present-day interviews with the filmmaker and clips from many of his films, the doc offers little for those who aren't already acquainted with his work and its context; but at fests and on video (it would be most appropriate as a supplement to a DVD box set) it will be welcomed by his most ardent fans. Those in the middle would probably do best just to rent one or two of his more recent films.

Most useful in its first half, the picture follows Sokurov through his difficulties with censors and politics as he did his first work at VGIK, one of the world's oldest film schools, and at St. Petersburg studio Lenfilm. Titles introducing excerpts of this early work invariably say something like "made 1979, released 1987," emphasizing the long period during which he struggled to be heard.

Broken into episodes shot over many days, the film eventually grows less concerned with chronological biography, letting Sokurov muse about his philosophy and the changing realities of life in Russia. Kilpelainen and editor Tambet Tasuja might have benefited from another set of eyes when selecting from their copious footage, hunting for more insightful quotes than "the opportunity to work is vital for me," and "it's important not to start wars."

Now and then, though, we get a little gem: Starting in the U.S., television "turned cinema into merchandise and completely discredited it," he complains — a provocative sentiment at a time when some of his most talented peers are looking to that medium to tell stories they aren't able to bring to the big screen.

Production company: Illume Oy

Director-Screenwriter: Leena Kilpelainen

Producers: Merja Ritola, Pertti Veijalainen

Directors of photography: Leena Kilpelainen, Aleksander Burov

Editor: Tambet Tasuja

Music: Timo-Juhani Kyllonen

No rating, 77 minutes